Obama cites progress in Haiti, calls for elections

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 6, 2014 

President Obama met Thursday with Haiti President Michel Martelly and said he was encouraged with progress on scheduling long-overdue elections in the country.

The Oval Office meeting was the first between the two and comes as Martelly faces increasing domestic and international pressure to schedule the delayed Senate and municipal elections in the country,still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Obama noted progress in the country since the earthquake, including improvements in security and infrastructure, but noted it's been "a very slow and difficult process.

"I think we all recognize that we all have a lot more work to do," Obama said. "My message today to the president and the people of Haiti is that the American people are committed to standing with you in this process. We want to make sure that all the children of Haiti are able to lead lives of opportunity, prosperity and security."

Obama said he was also pleased that Haiti had made progress on a new election law that will "help resolve some of the political roadblocks" and lead to elections this year.

Obama also said he looked forward to working with Martelly on issues such as human rights, judiciary reform and dealing with corruption. "We will continue to stand by Haitian democracy, Haitian leadership and the Haitian people in this slow and steady progress that needs to take place," Obama said.

Martelly, who met Wednesday with members of Congress and Secretary of State John Kerry, said he wanted to thank the U.S. "for always standing by the Haitian people."

He said he looked forward to discussing security issues, his country's fight against narcotics trafficking and his "engagement in building a strong democratic state."

Martelly assured lawmakers on Wednesday that the country would elections by the close of the year, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, a member of the House Foreign Affairs.

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